• Monique West, LCSW

Coronavirus Mental Health Survival Kit: 3 Steps to Mental Sanity


The Coronavirus has been on the tongues of everyone over the past month. Over the past two weeks we’ve have moved from mainly taking proper precautions to now isolation, social distancing and quarantines. Major stores and businesses are now closed. The country is in an economic downturn and the news outlets are predicting a few more weeks if not months of quarantines and major shutdowns. While the cases of positive COVID-19 is now doubling every three days; It is understandable that in reaction to such a drastic change in our lifestyle and livelihood anxiety, fear and depressive cycles have increased. It is important during this time to unplug from the news when it becomes overwhelming and repetitive. It’s imperative in safeguarding your mental health and prevent emotional spiraling to limit over saturation of information about the virus. Here are a few steps and tips to take to mentally preserve during this very challenging time.

1. Take Inventory of the things that are RIGHT in your world

It’s easy to feel out of control and powerless during this time, when your daily routines and schedules have been ripped from your control. It is natural to begin following a negative pattern of catastrophizing and disqualifying the positives. Spend some deliberate time in writing down all the things that are still within your control and are going ‘right’ in your world; and deserves gratitude. For example:

· I am grateful that although I am quarantined, and I feel helpless I have control over the projects I will work on each day.

· I am grateful that I have enough food to nourish my body through this difficult time.

· Many people’s lives have been taken in this pandemic, but my family and friends are healthy.

· I can finally work on the projects that I have procrastinated or did not have time for now that I have some downtime.

2. Create Structure in your day

Creating structure helps us to recreate some feelings of normalcy. Getting caught up in the unstructured phases of this pandemic can create an emotional free fall in your life. If you are working from home or homeschooling your children, decide on a daily schedule. A schedule in which you decide on a time to rise every morning, take a shower, make breakfast, exercise/meditate and begin your daily routine. Establish times in your day in which you will take breaks and then decide on how you enjoy these breaks. Some ideas are a walk in an open park (respecting social distancing guidelines of staying 6ft apart and sneezing/coughing into the crook of your elbow- be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after returning home or keep hand sanitizers in your pocket or car), going for a drive in your car looking at your favorite scenery. Listening to music and video chatting with a friend or family member. If you are working from home set up an area in your home that’s designated as your work area. Working in your bedroom, in your bed or relaxation area can cause chaos and cluttering in spaces that are supposed to bring you relaxation. Decide on a set end time every day to walk away from your work area to avoid burn out and imbalance. Create definite markers in your daily schedule to attend to work, homeschooling, meal preparation, self-care, household chore, family bonding etc. Organization and structure are your best friend during this unstable time to reduce feelings of restlessness.

3. Be patient with yourself and the process


Changing your perspective during this time of crisis can bring you emotional relief and a more meaningful experience. Instead of framing this time as a negative experience begin to acknowledge that during this time you will get a chance to reset, rest and repair. Being patient with self means acknowledging that your best during this time of emotional turmoil and uncertainty may not be the best you are accustomed to during regular times. Be patient and compassionate with yourself, know that you are juggling and doing the best you can while the world is at a standstill. Use this time to reconnect with friends/family through video and phone calls. Play boardgames, be silly, use this time to rejuvenate your energy source. Begin to write affirmations for yourself to remember that together we will heal and come out at the other end of this pandemic stronger and more grateful as a nation.

If at any point you are finding yourself drowning in fear, anxiety, depressive cycles and generally feeling overwhelmed visit www.psychologytoday.com for a list of therapist in your area and on your insurance network panel. Currently many therapists are conducting sessions through video or phone. Most insurance companies (including State Insurance) are paying for video/phone sessions during the time of the pandemic. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a licensed therapist to offer effective coping skills and support during this very uncertain time.

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